MOROCCO – Chari, a fintech and e-commerce startup, has been awarded the ‘Disrupter of the year’ trophy at the Africa CEO Forum in Abidjan, Ivory Coast.
The Africa CEO Forum is organized by Jeune Afrique Media Groupe and hosted by IFC (International Finance Corporation), a branch of the world bank. This year, the Africa CEO Forum highlighted the best African startups by awarding the ‘Disrupter of Year’ trophy.
The “Disrupter of the Year” trophy celebrates the startups whose activities are particularly disruptive and innovative. Emphasis is placed on products and initiatives with major impact in terms of financial inclusion, access to healthcare, education, and energy.
Chari was nominated alongside digital healthcare platform Vezeeta, ride hailing application Yassir, logistics and delivery company Paps and agritech startup Releaf. The nomination was sponsored by Visa
The jury was made of Hassananein Hiridjee, CEO of Axian Group, Elizabeth Medou Badang, Senior Vice President at Orange Middle East and Africa, Obi Ozor, CEO of Kobo360, Wale Ayeni, head of ventures at IFC and Veronica Ogeto, head of ventures at Safaricom
Launched in January 2020 by Ismael Belkhayat and Sophia Alj, Chari is an e-commerce app that helps small retailers in French-Speaking Africa to procure inventory for their stores and get it delivered for free while benefiting from payment facilities.
According to Ismael, this trophy awards Chari’s efforts in bolstering financial inclusion, especially for local traditional mom-and-pop stores and helping them withstand competition from mass retailers.
Since its launch during the peak of the COVID -19 pandemic, Chari has been on an expansion spree.
In January 2021, while it was still a B2B e-commerce platform that fashions retailers with suppliers, the startup announced that it was seeking an investment to enable it expand both at home and into other French-speaking African countries such as Tunisia, Algeria, Ivory Coast and Senegal.
The announcement followed a strong growth in its launch market of Casablanca, with the start-up revealing it has already signed up 10,000 shops as its clients.
In July that year, it became the first startup in the North African nation to join Y Combinator, a San Francisco-based startup accelerator, with the acquisition of 7% of Chari’s equity.
Y-Combinator is known to be the most selective startup incubator in the world, only accepting 1% of the startups that apply. Big names such as Airbnb, Dropbox, Stripe, Twitch, Sendbird, Reddit, or even Zapier have gone through Y Combinator.
In August the same year Chari announced the acquisition of the mobile credit book application Karny.ma. Karny.ma. is a telephone credit book allowing traditional local businesses to manage their outstanding customers.
The startup raised US$5 million in October 2021, in the largest venture funding round in the country that year and among the biggest-ever seed funding rounds in the North African nation.
It used the funding to expand Chari and Karny to Frencophone Africa and embed its financial services such as digital payment, money transfer and buy-now-pay-later in its product roadmap.
After 3 months, the start-up raised a bridge round of funding led by the Saudi-based venture capital fund Khwarizmi Ventures (KV), AirAngels (Airbnb Alumni Investors), and Afri Mobility, the venture capital arm of AKWA Group. The bridge round valued the company at US$100 million.
In March this year, Chari acquired Axa Credit, the credit branch of Axa Assurance Maroc, for US$22 million.
This was closely followed by its recent purchase of Diago, an Ivorian app that connects neighborhood shops to FMCG producers and importers.